Teaching adult learners can be extremely rewarding. Adults are generally more intrinsically motivated and have longer attention spans. Having a classroom full of adult learners in front of you means that you are working with a group who is learning by choice, thus, you don’t have to worry about behavioral issues or low motivation.
With that being said, teachers of adult students still need to use specific techniques to keep their adult learners engaged in learning. If you are a new teacher of adult students, you might not be familiar with all of the techniques. Have no fear, we are going to break down the top 5 most effective ways to keep adult learners engaged in learning.
Techniques to Use in the Classroom
1. Give Adult Learners Opportunities to Share Their Stories.
Adult learners bring a variety of life experiences to the classroom. While teaching a unit, ask students to think about how this information could apply to their personal life. Adult learners can write about this or share their thoughts informally with the class. Doing so allows adult learners to engage with the material in a personal manner and make strong connections to the content.
2. Discuss Current Events in the Classroom.
Adults pay more attention to news and current events than children do. Tap into these interests by building a lesson around a current event. This is engaging for adult learners because they can discuss real-life events that matter to them. You’ll hear lots of different perspectives, so be ready for a lively conversation!
3. Utilize Technology.
Technology is a part of all of our lives, especially adults. Don’t be afraid to take your class to the computer lab or use tablets if you have access to them. You won’t have to spend much time teaching students how to use the technology because most adults are already quite familiar with these tools. TED Ed, for example, is a great place for adults to find engaging content.
4. Manage and Encourage Discussion.
Although adult learners have longer attention spans than children, they will lose interest and focus if you’re doing all of the talking during class. Make sure you’re allowing ample time for student discussion. You also need to manage the classroom discussion; so don’t allow one student to dominate the class conversation. If one student in particular is frequently talking over others or steering the conversation off track, talk to them privately about being a considerate listener.
5. Give Plenty of Praise.
Yes, adult learners typically have higher self-esteem compared to children, but they still need positive enforcement just like any other student. Remind your students frequently how much progress they are making and about how resilient they are. Adult learners usually work full-time and manage family life outside of school, so their hard work deserves recognition. Positive reinforcement will encourage your adult learners to stay motivated and engaged.
Keep Adult Learners Engaged
Keeping adult students engaged in learning is an extremely important element of adult education. However, there are other elements that deserve just as much consideration. If you’re interested in taking your teaching skills to the next level, check out our other tips for providing clear instruction and promoting critical thinking in the adult education classroom.